AN Australian Federal MP is planning to join some of the world’s noisiest deniers of the science of climate change at a conference in Las Vegas in a few weeks time.
George Christensen, the National Party member for Dawson in the coal-friendly state of Queensland, will be hanging around the Mandelay Bay Resort with a rag-tag bunch of mostly long-retired academics and well paid think-tank associates for the Heartland Institute conference, starting on 7 July.
The Heartland Institute, funded over the years by fossil fuel corporations and conservative philanthropists, is itself one of America’s loudest climate science denial organisations. This will be the organisation’s ninth gathering of climate sceptics, denialists and fossil fuel apologists.
Before its 2012 conference, Heartland took out a billboard advertisement with a picture of terrorist and triple murderer Ted “unabomber” Kaczynski next to the words: “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”
Just to push the envelope further, the institute issued a press release stating: “Of course, not all global warming alarmists are murderers and tyrants.”
Glad we got that one cleared up.
Christensen has put his own “sceptical” views on climate change on the record in the past. He is not sure that humans can cause climate change.
In his maiden speech to Australia’s Parliament, Christensen said: “Despite what the political and media elite tell us to think, the truth is the science on climate change is not settled.”
In November 2013, Christensen told Parliament that his doubts about climate change came from “the well-publicised antics” of climate scientists when thousands of private emails were illegally hacked from Britain’s the University of East Anglia and then published.
Numerous investigations into the so-called “climategate” affair found there had been no scientific misconduct, but this news obviously had not reached Christensen.
Christensen also promoted Heartland's climate change reports which he said were from “real climate scientists” and showed “the science is nowhere near to being settled”.
In Parliament in February, he downplayed a spate of “so-called record heat waves” by saying other parts of the globe had experienced “record cold”. In fact, according to the US National Climate Data Center, January 2014 was the globe’s fourth hottest since records began in 1880 and was the “347th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average”.
I wanted to know more about Christensen’s trip to the Heartland conference and his views on climate change, so I emailed his press officer. Here’s what I asked.
1. Why are you attending the conference?
2. Right now, what are your own thoughts on the causes of climate change? Do you think humans cause it?
3. How much of the conference will you be attending (you're down to speak on July 9) and how is the trip being financed?
4. How did your attendance come about? Were you invited or did you ask to attend?
5. The Heartland Institute came in for criticism at its conference in 2012 with a billboard campaign featuring a picture of unabomber Ted Kaczynski beside the words “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”. An accompanying press release stated : “The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.” What's your view of these sentiments and did they make you pause before deciding to attend this conference?
When I chased up the email, Christensen’s media officer told me by phone he would not be responding to my questions. I was told there was “no point talking to a climate activist blog” and they could “not find anywhere where you have not pilloried the views of someone who does not think like you do”.
So where does Christensen get his ideas about climate change from?
One revealing document is Christensen’s Parliamentary expenses report from 2012 listing 11 climate change and environmental policy books bought by his office.
Titles include The Great Global Warming Blunder: How Mother Nature Fooled The World's Top Climate Scientists by Roy Spencer; The Real Global Warming Disaster: Is The Obsession With 'Climate Change' Turning Out To Be The Most Costly Scientific Blunder In History by Christopher Booker and Killing The Earth To Save It: How Environmentalists Are Ruining The Planet, Destroying The Economy And Stealing Your Jobs by James Delingpole.
Six of the books were bought two months before Christensen was appointed by the then opposition to sit on a key committee to examine carbon price legislation.
Christensen’s office also bought 25 copies of Australian sceptic and mining entrepreneur Professor Ian Plimer’s book How To Get Expelled From School: A guide to climate change for pupils, parents and punters.
The previous government’s Department of Climate Change issued a blow-by-blow rebuttal of Plimer’s book, saying it was “misleading” and “based on inaccurate or selective interpretation of the science”.
Viva Las Vegas
During the two-day Las Vegas conference, Christensen is scheduled to join Patrick Michaels, of the Cato Institute and the author of another of those books, to present some awards.
Christensen is also listed to sit down with fellow Australians for a panel session on the “global warming debate in Australia”.
Christensen will be joined by one of his own constituents, Dr Bob Carter, a “science policy advisor” for the Melbourne-based climate science denialist think tank the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).
Carter advises more than a dozen climate science denialist organisations around the world.
In February 2012, internal Heartland Institute documents revealed Carter was to be paid $1667 a month for his work on its project to produce reports to directly challenge the findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Another panel member joining Christensen is Jennifer Marohasy, a former senior fellow with the IPA.
Marohasy is currently a research fellow at Central Queensland University — a post funded by the “B. Macfie Family Foundation”.
Bryant Macfie is a Perth-based philanthropist and climate science sceptic. In 2009 the university accepted $195,000 from Macfie and in 2012 the CQU annual report said he had renewed his “significant support”.
In 2008, Macfie made a $350,000 gift to another university – the University of Queensland – that was facilitated by the IPA and criticised by some UQ academics.
When making the donation, Macfie claimed science had been damaged by “environmental activism” and wrote, “the crucifix has been replaced by the wind turbine”.
Marohasy was working for the IPA at the time and she defended the donation in a story in The Australian.
The final name to join Christensen on the conference panel is William Kininmonth, who is described as a “consulting climatologist with the Australasian Climate Research Institute”.
The “Australasian Climate Research Institute” is actually Kininmonth’s personal business trading name. It is an “institute” with no business premises, no employees and no website.
The Heartland Institute points out that Kininmonth was the head of the National Climate Centre at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology for 12 years from 1985 to 1998. While this is true, his job was largely irrelevant to the study of climate change.
The bureau itself has previously released a statement clarifying that during Kininmonth’s tenure, the centre did not do any research on climate change and was instead mainly responsible for collecting observations of Australia’s rainfall and temperature. The bureau said:
The processes and methodologies developed within the National Climate Centre have established that Australia has significantly warmed since 1910. A warming trend was established and published by the National Climate Centre during the period of 1985 to 1998.
Other notable Heartland climate conference speakers include Patrick Moore, who Heartland bills as “Founder, Greenpeace” despite Greenpeace making clear several years ago that Moore in fact wasn’t a founder.
There are lots of places where George Christensen could go to inform himself and his constituents on climate change. The Mandelay Bay Resort and Casino in the first week of July is not one of them.